Ask The Expert: Why Do My Ears Hurt After I Go Swimming?

24 December 2019

You’ve had plenty of pool and beach time on your vacation, but now your ears are aching – and you’re not sure what’s causing it.

The answer is a simple one, says Dr. Lynne Lim of the Lynne Lim Ear Nose Throat & Hearing Centre. It’s a common infection called Swimmer’s Ear, which is caused by the breakdown of the ear canal’s protective oil film as a result of prolonged swimming or water sports exposure, she explains. Those with narrow or tortuous canals, bony overgrowths, allergies, skin eczema or a tendency to dig at their ears, are more prone to contracting it. “Symptoms include painful swelling and infection of the ear canal,” says Dr. Lim. “The ear will feel itchy and blocked, and is painful to the touch and when you chew.”

The good news? Treating Swimmer’s Ear isn’t complicated. “For infections, a doctor can insert ear wicks to stent the ear canal open, and antibiotic ear drops and tablets will help,” explains Dr. Lim. “You can also prevent the infections by tipping your head to the side to drain out water residue after your swim. Alternatively, wick the water out of your ears with a cotton bud or use the cold-air function on a hairdryer – keep the hairdryer at least 30 centimetres away from your ears, though. If you use swimming plugs, make sure they fit well or consider custom-fit swim plugs.

One last word of caution from Dr. Lim: “While some have used a mix of white vinegar and rubbing alcohol to prevent fungal and bacterial infection, you should ensure that your eardrum isn’t perforated first, as the solution can cause middle and inner ear damage, if so.”

Lynne Lim Ear Nose Throat & Hearing Centre
3 Mount Elizabeth, #17-07, Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, 228510
Tel: 6737 7787

From The Finder Issue 301, December 2019 / Photo: 123RF.com

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